Duke at Notre Dame
Saturday, 12:30 pm PT - CBS
CRIS Opener: Notre Dame -21.5 O/U 58
CRIS Current: Notre Dame -20.5 O/U 60.5
For the second time in three games, Notre Dame's defense was gashed for big yards and big points. Texas rolled up 50 on the Irish in Week 1 and then Michigan State hung 36 and 6.42 yards per play in last week's 36-28 upset win. Needless to say, most of the media coverage this week has centered around Notre Dame's ongoing defensive struggles that date back to last year. Against their last four power conference opponents (Stanford, Ohio State, Texas, and Michigan State), the Irish have allowed 42 ppg. Last year, the excuse was injuries and lack of depth. This year, it's the secondary with multiple key players out. According to Brian Kelly, the main problem is simply not performing up to snuff.
But the situation this week is far more favorable as Duke comes to town. The Blue Devils managed only 27 points in back-to-back losses to Wake Forest and Northwestern. Freshman quarterback Daniel Jones has been serviceable with 61% completions but he's not nearly as polished as former starter Thomas Sirk who lost for the year due to injury. The one underrated aspect of Sirk was his ability to run the football. Much of Duke's offense was centered around designed quarterback runs as Sirk was the team's leading rusher with 803 yards. Jones can run when needed but has only 81 yards on 31 carries in three games.
Notre Dame's defensive problems are not going to be solved overnight but the capabilities to hold a pedestrian offense in check are there. In Week 2, the Irish held Nevada to 10 points. Late last season, even with the depth chart hammered by injuries, Notre Dame held Wake Forest to 7 and Boston College to 16. The heat is on Brian Kelly and defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder. I see this week as an excellent opportunity for a top notch effort. We'll look to play this one under the total.